If your written proposals, justifications, and analyses are anything like mine, then your first drafts are weak in the opening and strong in the closing. At first crack, I often lack a solid introductory paragraph, but my conclusion usually summarizes the key issues and highlights what’s at stake for the reader. For instance, I might open a proposal with a weak opening, like so:
This is a proposal for switching to the HearMeNow Smartphone for our project managers.
After crafting a strong case in the body of the message by detailing the nature, causes, and impact of communication problems that project managers experience in the field and by noting options with a comparative analysis, I might conclude with a far superior closing, such as:
HearMeNow clearly is the superior choice because of its diverse business applications, expansive area coverage, unmatched carrier service, and prolonged battery life—all of which are vital for project managers, who are often in the field for up to ten hours in a workday. Approving this proposal for all 11 project managers would result in receiving a deep volume discount of 33 percent for the smartphones and the monthly service.
So my closing is a heavyweight and my opening is a 98-pound weakling. I bring it all home at the end but fail to focus the reader on the significance of the issue upfront, where it really counts.
Not a problem.
All I need to remember is that the opening and closing are powerfully connected. Both places are where the purpose shows up. Maybe I can use something from the closing in the opening. With that thought in mind, here is how I might align them:
Opening: Replacing our project managers’ mobile phones with HearMeNow smartphones would provide them with a more robust, reliable, and economical system for sharing data and accessing the executive offices from remote locations.
Closing: HearMeNow clearly is the superior choice because of its diverse business applications, expansive area coverage, unmatched carrier service, and prolonged battery life. Approving this proposal for all 11 project managers would result in receiving a deep volume discount of 33 percent for the smartphones and the monthly service.
Taking my lead from the closing, I now have an opening that summarizes the business issue and previews the details to follow. As a side benefit, my stronger opening helped me eliminate from the closing two clauses that would have merely repeated what I already said in the body: “all of which are vital for project managers, who are often in the field for up to ten hours in a workday.”
When revising, be sure to align your openings and closings!
Books by Philip Vassallo
- How to Write Fast Under Pressure
- The Art of E-mail Writing
- The Art of On-the-Job Writing
- The Inwardness of the Outward Gaze: Learning and Teaching Through Philosophy